In the aftermath of a hurricane or natural disaster, policyholders may have questions about the insurance process, including what is covered and what isn’t. Here are some answers to many of these common questions.
A. Standard homeowners, condo owners, and renters insurance policies do not cover flood damage, including damage from a storm surge. Flood coverage requires a separate policy from the federally backed National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private flood insurer. Learn more information about flood insurance.
A. Your flood insurance policy covers damages from storm surges. A standard homeowners, condo owners, or renters insurance policy does not cover damage from floods, such as flooding from a storm surge.
A. Flood damage is caused by an overflow of inland or tidal waters. It is defined as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres and two or more properties of what is normally dry land. So, typically if only one property is impacted in a neighborhood, then that damage is not considered flood-related.
A. Property insurance covers damage from windstorms, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, to the “residence premises.” These premises can be a single-family home, a duplex where the policyholder lives in one of the units, or any other building where the policyholder resides—as shown on the insurance policy declarations page.
A standard homeowners policy also applies to attached structures, such as a garage or deck, and “other structures” that are unattached, such as a separate garage building or shed and swimming pools. The policy includes coverage for damage to contents. Learn more information about homeowners coverage.
A. A renters policy covers personal belongings damaged by the wind from the storm. Damage from flooding may be covered under some, but not all, renters policies. You can purchase a separate renters flood policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and some private insurers. Damage unrelated to your possessions, such as part of the apartment’s structure like the walls and floor, is covered under the building owner’s policy. Learn more information about renters insurance.
A. If you have purchased a co-op or condominium policy for your apartment or townhouse, you are covered for damage to the interior space of your home. The condo association’s master insurance policy might have coverage for your fixtures, wiring or plumbing, or it may only provide coverage from the “bare walls” and not what is behind them. You can obtain a copy of the master condo policy to better understand what is covered. Learn about co-op/condo insurance.
A. Flood damage to vehicles, including flooding from a storm surge, is covered if you have purchased comprehensive coverage, also known as “other than collision” coverage, which is optional with a standard auto policy. About 80 percent of U.S. drivers carry comprehensive coverage. Learn about auto coverage.
A. Do not wait until a claims adjuster arrives to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your property. Most policies require you to take these preventive steps, and most insurance companies will reimburse you for the expense of making such reasonable and necessary repairs up to a specified dollar amount. Be sure to save all the receipts from purchases related to your repairs so you can be reimbursed as part of the claims process.
A. Following a hurricane, some insurance companies may include food spoilage coverage, usually for a set amount ranging from $250 to $500 per appliance. Check with your insurance professional to learn if your policy provides coverage for this.
A. You can find the exact dollar amount of your hurricane deductible on the declarations page of your insurance policy. Whether a hurricane deductible applies to a claim depends on the specific “trigger,” which can vary by state and insurer and is typically linked to watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service. Learn more about deductibles.
A. Always file a property insurance claim if you sustain damage from a hurricane. Sometimes, additional damage may become evident in the months following a significant storm. Filing a claim, even if the damage total is under your deductible, will protect you if further repairs are needed. And if your home suffers damage from more than one storm in a single season, the damage from the first storm may apply toward the annual hurricane deductible amount.
A. Homeowners insurance policies do not pay for the removal of trees or landscaping debris that did not cause damage to an insured structure. In other words, if a tree hits your home, that damage is covered by your insurance; if your tree fell on your neighbor’s home, their property insurance company would pay them for damages. However, if the fallen tree was poorly maintained or diseased and you took no steps to take care of it, their insurer may seek reimbursement from you for the damages in a process called subrogation. Learn more about trees and insurance.
A. Most homeowners, condo owners, and renters policies cover additional living expenses—any costs over and above your customary living expenses—when you are displaced from your home by a covered loss (such as wind damage) and need temporary shelter. The amount is generally 20 percent of the total insurance you have on your home. Some insurers pay more than 20 percent; others limit additional living expenses to a specific dollar amount spent during a specific period. Keep all your receipts to document your expenditures.
A. Generally, expenses related to evacuation are only covered if there is also damage to your property or if emergency management authorities enact a mandatory evacuation order prior to the storm making an impact. Check your policy to see how this coverage is defined.
A. You have a right to hire outside claims assistance; however, be aware that public adjusters are paid a percentage of your claim, and legal services are often billed at an hourly rate. The insurance premiums you pay include the services of a claims adjuster provided by your carrier when you need to file a claim. Their job is to serve you and help you recover and rebuild. If you are not satisfied with the results, you can contact the insurer’s claims manager. Every natural disaster gives insurers an opportunity to do their best for you, which should be your expectation. Learn more information about claims filing.